Residential Research Quarterly: March 2021

In this first quarterly review of residential green building research for 2021, we highlight several reports: the top states for LEED, how housing discrimination affects environmental inequality, policy affecting healthy housing, energy trends in the U.S., decarbonization of the U.S. energy system, electrification of homes in seven U.S. cities, and how the pandemic could affect the spring home buying season.

Top 10 States for LEED | USGBC

In February, USGBC released its 11th annual list of Top 10 States for LEED green building. First among the states in certified square feet per capita is Massachusetts, which topped the list for the first time since 2017. While the list accounted for projects including commercial spaces like offices, health care facilities and educational institutions, it also incorporated multifamily residential projects. Nearly half of the projects in the top 10 were certified LEED Gold, showing a high level of commitment to sustainability and resilience by project teams.

How Housing Discrimination Affects Environmental Inequality | Duke University and University of Illinois

This study by the University of Illinois and Duke University reveals how racial discrimination in home renting affects environmental inequality. The study found a “troublingly high” degree of racial bias in the online housing market. For example, in neighborhoods with a low pollution concentration, researchers measured a 59% relative response rate to inquiries from renters with names that "sounded" Black and Latino, meaning that these renters were 41% less likely than those with white-sounding names to receive a response. The results of this study imply deep racial disparities in pollution exposures and the broader welfare of underrepresented communities.

Read U of I’s press release on the study or download the full study. Also, check out USGBC’s organizational road map for equity and inclusion, All In: Building Equity Together.

Policies, Regulations and Legislation Promoting Healthy Housing: A Review | World Health Organization

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Housing and Health Guidelines provide recommendations for housing to support health, quality of life, sustainability and alleviation of poverty. In this review, WHO assesses housing policies, regulations and legislation that have been adopted at the local, regional and national levels in countries within the six WHO regions. It found that green building standards, including LEED, have “numerous health benefits,” including improvements to indoor environmental quality and self-reported health benefits. Specifically, the report found that, with the implementation of green building standards, there were 47% fewer sick building syndrome symptoms and fewer cases of mold, pests and inadequate ventilation in green homes.

Read WHO’s full report for more information on the findings. Check out how LEED supports enhanced human health.

2021 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook | Business Council for Sustainable Energy

BCSE published its 9th annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, which reveals insights into energy patterns and economic investment, as well as statistics on how COVID-19 has influenced energy consumption in the U.S. Total primary energy use saw its largest single-year decline (3.8%) in over 30 years. Alongside the decrease in commercial and industrial energy activity, the residential sector experienced increased demand. The report also found that the past year’s energy savings was not due to energy efficiency measures, but rather to the closing of millions of businesses and commercial institutions.

Read USGBC’s article covering the factbook in more detail and read the full factbook.

Accelerating Decarbonization of the U.S. Energy System | The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine

This report, conducted by a committee of experts assembled by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, assesses the technological, social and behavioral dimensions of policy and research activities needed over the next 5–20 years to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The report includes various recommendations to reduce carbon emissions, including making strategic investments in building efficiency and investing in demand reduction to improve quality of life, provide U.S. jobs and reduce inequities. Residential recommendations include increased funding for the weatherization assistance program that implements efficiency upgrades for low–income housing, strategies to realize net zero emissions in new homes and electrification of space heating

Read the full report for more detail on the findings. For information on how LEED supports net zero emissions, check out LEED Zero and read our policy brief on how LEED supports a reduced carbon footprint.

The New Economics of Electrifying Buildings: An Analysis of Seven Cities | Rocky Mountain Institute

In case you missed it, this report from 2020 examines seven U.S. cities and the potential for fully electrified single family homes. Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) provides a two-page analysis for each city of the projected costs of a new all-electric home versus a new mixed-fuel home that relies on gas for various home operations. For each city, RMI found that a mixed-fuel home has a higher up-front costs, well as higher annual utility costs. What’s more, carbon emissions from home heating, water heating and cooking were found to be 65% lower over the appliance lifetime in an all-electric home, due to increased appliance efficiency and increasingly low-carbon electricity.

Download the individual reports for more detail on each city and a look at all cities in the study.

How the Coronavirus Vaccine Could Further Fuel the Upcoming Home Shopping Season| Zillow

A report released by Zillow found that around 52% of homeowners looking to move would be comfortable moving to a new home under the current health conditions surrounding the pandemic. However, this figure increases to 70% in the context of a widespread COVID-19 vaccine distribution, representing a difference of about 14 million households.

Read the full findings of the study. For information on how USGBC is responding to the pandemic, see our COVID-19 resources page.

If you would like to suggest studies or reports for us to highlight in the future, please contact Alysson Blackwelder.

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